It was quite recently, during Christmas, alone in a country that doesn't celebrate Christmas, that I confronted myself with this question. But the honest answer, after contemplating long and hard, is "I don't really know..."
Population demographers often talk about the pull and push factors when it comes to immigration and relocation of people. Together, the pull and push factors determine the reason[s] for moving, and may include a myriad of economical, social, political, environmental and cultural reasons, not to mention the intricate personal motivations.
In order to find my true reason for moving, I had to carefully identify and analyse my pull and push factors.
What pushed me? Economical reasons. Having two Master's degrees did not open the doors that I wanted to. Political reasons. I was disillusioned in post-apartheid South Africa. Safety. I felt my lifestyle was compromised too much by restrictions out of safety concerns. Personal reasons. The excitement of a new beginning, to get out of my comfort zone, and to expand my horizons.
What pulled me to the land of rice wine and chopsticks? Minimal living costs, opportunity to save, opportunity to live, medical care, state-of-the-art technology and a growing economy with a positive future. And rice wine.
But this is nothing new, and surely not a unique situation. But maybe this is exactly what I needed to discover. There shouldn't be a unique or special reason that would drive me to leave folk and fatherland. The scary thing is the lack of a unique reason, a special story, and a "good" reason. Thousands of others have the same reasons. And that is cause for concern.
I felt relieved that I am not alone in my struggle to do what I believe is best for me. Around the globe many South Africans are doing the same. I felt relieved that it was not that I was wrong, but that there is something wrong with good old SA. Because for all South Africans leaving the country, it is the push factors that are more or less the same. The push factors are the greatest common denominator.
Pull factors differ, that is precisely why some go to the UK, USA, Australia or where ever they can find there piece of peace. But it is the same things that push us away. Away from friends, away from family and away from Spur and Wimpy.
So here I am. Do I miss SA? Yes. Do I want to go back? Yes, definitely. When? I don't know.
The thing with pull and push factors are, that they work both ways. There are factors pulling me back to SA and pushing me away from Taiwan. I miss Checkers and Pick 'n Pay, I miss it to watch cricket, heck, I even miss Nataniel and RSG.
That is why I am not an immigrant, but an expatriate. Not an ex-patriot. But someone who still loves his country. I am just not so sure if that loving is mutual. I sure wish it was.
And in the meantime, I'll take a sip of sake and keep my passport ready.
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